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That was the first night Alutras had trouble sleeping ever since he stopped pooping in his pants. He was excited to see the festival, to see the rumored martial artists who would represent their schools. More so, he was curious to see who the masters of those schools were and how powerful exactly they were. His old soul was stirring inside just by thinking about the possibility of using them in the future to test out his power against them.
What didn’t at first cross his mind was the possibility that among all those martial artists to be someone around his age worthy enough of being called a rival. This was highly improbable in his eyes.
The Festival of the Divine happened throughout the entire city, but the parade would pass only through the central road, which was the only one big enough to hold all the people. As one would expect, the first rows were occupied by nobles and rich merchants as well as the families of the practitioners learning in the schools. Meanwhile, the commoners were forced to watch from the back rows. Some people even climbed up on the rooftops of their homes to watch the parade better.
Everyone wanted to see it, and the same could be said about Alutras and his father. Seeing how they couldn’t get into the front lines or climb over something for a better look, his father decided to pick him up and carry him on his shoulder. This way, Alutras could watch over the sea of heads and see the parade in front of them.
With his enhanced senses as a result of his constant training in the Divine Energy Control art, the young boy could see what others around him couldn’t. The farthest dragon paper lamp was seen as though he was merely a few steps away from it. A single leaf blown through the wind could be caught in his gaze, while it remained invisible for others. A whisper from someone far away from him was heard as though it was shouted out.
For this event, Alutras focused only on his eyes, letting his other senses retain a relatively normal sensitivity. The first thing to catch his attention was the difference in colors and details of their clothes. At the front, where the rich people were, the colors were the brightest and then faded into a gray or brown as they went further towards the back rows. The same went for the design on their clothes. At the front, only golden pheasants, dragons, and phoenixes decorated their robes, while the following rows were filled with flowers and intricate leaf designs. The back rows lacked both an eye-pleasing color and a drawing of some sort. Even his father wore only a simple dark-gray robe, but that was his best one yet.
This difference in colors and designs came a bit as a shock to Alutras because for the first time, he was aware of the difference between the rich and the poor. In his past life, Shengo didn’t care about such things, and as such, he never noticed them.
We are poor… he thought as he set his eyes on a father in the front rows who also carried his son on his shoulders.
The young boy was dressed in really expensive clothes decorated with gold and silver to show just how rich his family was. Alutras then looked down at himself and noticed for the first time how simple his clothes were, but then he saw the bright smile of his father.
“How is it, son? Are you having fun?” he asked.
“Yes!” he replied with a big smile.
I shouldn’t think about this sort of stuff… it would make father sad. he thought and then looked forward, casting his gaze past the rich and over to the empty center of the road.
The parade had yet to start, but everyone was excited. For most people there, the entire festival was a change of pace, a moment to relax or to earn an extra coin, but for those related to the students of the schools, it was a moment to show off.
“Father? When will this fef-felf-fers…” he stuttered when trying to correctly pronounce the word.
“The Festival of the Divine.” the man smiled as he corrected him.
“Un! That! When will it start?” he asked.
“It won’t be long now, my son. The five schools of the Divine will lead the parade, then the richest of the nobles and merchant families will each present a decorated carriage.” he explained.
“Do you know the name of those five schools?” the boy asked.
“Yes.” he nodded “First, we will have The Seven Lotus Petals school. They will be followed by The Three Blue Flowers, The Sun and the Moon, The Heavenly Arts, and lastly The Three Tigers. The five strongest Elders of these schools form the council which leads this town together with the Jade Healer. They answer only to themselves and the Royal Family of our Tengal Kingdom. All of them are powerful practitioners of the Soul and Divine Energy Control Arts. If one goes to learn from any of these five schools, they are certain to lead an easy life.” the man explained with a tone of voice denoting a certain amount of respect towards these practitioners.
“Why is that, father?” Alutras asked, while inside, he asked himself another question These practitioners were offered an easy life for simply being able to use their skills? Back in my day, they weren’t so generous to me! Still, why are there so many schools? One should have been enough!
Knowing that there would be some powerful practitioners showing up, even if they were inferior in his eyes, they could probably still detect him if he wasn’t careful. That was why before coming here, he disguised his aura with a murky Divine Energy, making him look exactly like any other non-practitioner out there. It was a simple technique, but ineffective if any of them focused directly on him.
“Well, son… these practitioners are those who go to war instead of me and you. They are whom we depend upon for healing and protection against monsters.” the man replied and looked up at his son. “The Jade Healer, Sunttar, is the leader of our fair city as well as our most powerful healer of the Divine. he can heal any illness for the right amount of coin, but his main role is to watch over the strongest fighters and their families.” he explained.
Hm? So he’s only a healer? Alutras thought and remembered how in his past life he was forced to heal himself after every dangerous battle.
Any master who reached a certain point in the art of Divine Energy Control knew how to use most healing abilities. Knowing this, Alutras couldn’t see himself as impressed by this Jade Healer, but then again, there was the chance there could be more to him than the commoners knew. He had to be careful.
Why would they put a healer in charge? Wouldn’t a General be better? he thought while he silently looked towards the sea of people.
Not long after this, the Festival of the Divine finally began, and Alutras was able to see what sort of practitioners these schools were teaching as well as how powerful they were.
The parade started with a line of jugglers and performers dancing to the music played by a small music band on top of a small scene pulled by two horses decorated with feather costumes. The jugglers carried torches and swords, which caught the attention of the children, while the dancers were beautiful women and men who wore revealing clothes, catching the eyes of curious onlookers. The whole crowd was going: Oh! Ah! WOW! Amazing!
Although many people had their gazes stolen by this group, the old soul inside Alutras couldn’t see what all of those people found to be so fascinating about their act. He simply didn’t see the fun in their dances and tricks. Maybe he was too old for stuff like this or too young.
Maybe that old dragon would have loved to see them. He always was one to enjoy festivals. he thought as he remembered his past.
Right behind the scene, at about 20 meters distance, the disciples of the Seven Lotus Petals school arrived. Those in the front carried the flags with the symbol of their school: seven white petals flowing down on a red background.
The procession had them all placed in the order of their ranks, starting from the weakest in the front to the strongest in the back. Looking at them, Alutras immediately understood that when compared to him, they were ridiculously weak. His hopes of finding someone interesting among those disciples were shattered the very moment he laid his eyes on them.
I’m a bit disappointed. I was expecting more. The weakest one among them has only one breakthrough, while those in the back seven or eight. I’m currently at nine, so I should be able to easily defeat any of them in a one on one battle. In Divine Energy Control, none of them can be compared with me, but my only disadvantage is my young body. If I’m not careful even one who has only six breakthroughs could defeat me. Give me another 14 years, and I’m going to have twice as many breakthroughs as I have now if not more, as well as an adult body. Well, I also lack Souls, so that might be a bit of a problem, especially if they have some good ones. So far, I can’t say they impress me with anything. Alutras thought after carefully analyzing all of them.
Like a firefly in the night, none of them even tried to hide their strength. On the contrary, they were flaunting it all over the place as though it was a new robe they just bought and simply had to show it off.
“Look, my son! The disciples! It is a great honor to be even a Copper One Pearl rank!” said his father.
“Copper One Pearl?” the boy blinked surprised when he heard that. What a ridiculous name! he thought.
“If we were closer, you would be able to see that every practitioner wears a bracelet on his right hand. It shows the rank of their cultivation as well as their strength! Copper One Pearls are the weakest of them, but it’s said that the Elder of The Seven Lotus Petals to be a Gold Three Pearls! Imagine that!” he said with great praise and respect in the tone of his voice.
“Huh?” Alutras was a bit confused.
Casting his gaze upon the parade, he focused on their hands and noticed the bracelets his father was talking about. Just as their names said, they were made out of a specific metal decorated with one, two, or three pearls, according to their rank. The order was as follows: Copper One Pearl, Copper Two Pearls, Copper Three pearls, Iron One Pearl, Iron Two Pearls, Iron Three Pearls, Silver One Pearl, Silver Two Pearls, and Silver Three Pearls. Going by this order of logic, it was certainly followed by Gold One Pearl, Gold Two Pearls, and Gold Three Pearls, however, in Alutras’ eyes, these were merely the very first twelve breakthroughs. In other words, he was a Silver Three Pearls practitioner at the age of 4 years old.
In the past, I reached the 21st breakthrough when most were struggling with the 15th or 16th, but after the 12th, it’s very hard to cultivate to the next one. The difficulty goes up with each breakthrough, but having a lot of Souls can ease up the process. Still, leaving this matter aside, why are they putting on display their number of breakthroughs? It’s like inviting people to go and cause trouble for them! Someone with a higher breakthrough can bully those of lower breakthroughs. How do they stop that? Besides… the first nine breakthroughs are the absolute EASIEST! the boy complained in his mind.
The way he saw it was that these disciples were never thought properly on how to cultivate or maybe the knowledge of how to do so didn’t exist around these parts. The worst-case scenario was that sometime in the past three hundred years, this information was either lost or kept hidden, but what Alutras didn’t account for was the simple fact that maybe he did something a bit out of the ordinary from the get go, which helped him achieve so many breakthroughs so fast.
Behind the long row of disciples from the Seven Lotus Petals school was a big decorative car pulled by ten horses. The wheels were hidden behind a row of painted wooden screens, which displayed the symbol of the schools repetitively. This formed the bottom platform, which was ten by ten meters. On top of it was a small tower of about 3 meters tall decorated with girdles of gold and silver, moonstones, white opals, and spinels. Many different types of jewels decorated it just to show how rich and powerful the school was. The only ones missing were rubies and pearls. On top of the tower, wearing beautiful clothes and enough jewels on them to make even the merchants in front glare at them in envy, were the Elders and teachers of this school, smiling proudly and looking ahead at the mass of people who came to see them.
With only one glance, Alutras understood that just one of those jewels was enough to feed his family for a few weeks. Still, the boy could only wonder for what reason these practitioners displayed such garments and riches. It was no better than screaming out loud that they were the richest there and then laughing in the face of those who could only dream of ever reaching such heights.
A practitioner of the Soul and Divine Energy Control art was supposed to focus only on his study and cultivation not walk around and flaunt the gold in his pockets. There was no purpose in that, at least not in Alutras’ opinion.
Are they idiots? he wondered.
After the Seven Lotus Petals school came the Three Blue Flowers. Their flag was pitch black and had three blue roses on it, forming a triangle. They weren’t as rich as the first school, but they had a whole lot more disciples to show their strength. In a strength battle, Alutras knew that this one would come out as victorious.
So the order of strength is not by rank and skill but by the gold in one’s purse. he pondered as he watched them pass by.
The Sun and the Moon school followed next. Their flag was completely white with a red circle in the left top corner and a black circle in the bottom right corner. Their display of riches was below the Three Blue Flowers, but they had almost the same amount of disciples as the first school.
By now, Alutras wasn’t amused or appealed by the pretty colors anymore. Although the parade was eye-catchy, a true martial artist wasn’t supposed to care for things like that. At least, back in his time they didn’t. Instead of a display of skills, he witnessed a display of how much each practitioner could carry in their pockets. Still, the parade wasn’t over yet, so there was still some hope for him to spot a worthy talent of his attention among the disciples.
After the Sun and the Moon school, the Heavenly Arts school made its appearance in the parade. Instead of showing off gold and silver as riches, this one only showed a few jewels and decorated the rest of the car with flying dragons, clouds, and paintings of various elders. Just like their name said, they valued art more than riches, but their number of disciples wasn’t that impressive either. If one were to guess, they didn’t even have 10% of all the riches of the first school.
Still, it wasn’t the skillfully drawn pictures or the number of disciples that caught Alutras’ gaze. It was a single person, a girl standing on top of the car, next to the Elders of the schools.
She wore a jade-green dress with golden phoenix embroidery on it. On her head was a small tiara, and to hold her long, red hair in a bun, she pushed through it a gold needle with a small emerald at the end. Slender arms, delicate features, and a graceful presence described her perfectly. The glance in her emerald-green eyes spoke of a high noble lady, but she never cast it over the crowd before her. She was an unparalleled beauty who would certainly capture the hearts of many men and make just as many women jealous once she grew up to adulthood.
Even Alutras found himself gulping when he looked at her and thanks to his enhanced vision, he could see the smallest of details such as her tender, pink lips, the small bumps on her chest, promising to grow further, and the subtle elegance of her posture.
When looking at her, one couldn’t imagine that this young lady was only twelve, just eight years older than Alutras. The young boy, however, noticed something even more subtle than her unparalleled beauty for her age. The bracelet she wore was an Iron Three Pearls, but from what he could sense, Alutras knew that she had already reached her eleventh breakthrough. In other words, she was a Gold Two Pearls practitioner.
Confused and bewildered by her beauty, he asked “Father? Who is that lovely girl?”
The man lifted his head above the crowd to see whom he was referring to.
“Where?” he asked.
“Over there! On the Heavenly Arts car.” he pointed out.
“Ah! That’s Lady Ryuciel.”
“Ryuciel? That’s her name? Lovely… Who is she, father?” he asked curiously.
The man smirked “You have a good eye for young ladies, my son. That girl is the youngest daughter of the Tamasky merchant family. She’s also a practitioner of the Divine Energy Control and rumored to be a genius among geniuses. She is one of the many disciples our city prides itself with!” he explained.
“You know quite a lot, father.” Alutras said surprised and looked down at his parent.
“Of course! Mister Tamasky is my employer! When I see his family, I always have to bow my head in respect.” he nodded.
“Is that so?” the boy looked back at the beauty and rubbed his non-existing beard.
“You shouldn’t think about taking her hand, son. She’s already promised to the Jade Healer’s son.” he warned him.
“Promised?” the word confused the boy.
“Of course, this matter still depends on the will of the young lady, but it’s rumored that the Jade Healer’s son visits her often, and I even once heard them talking about Lady Ryuciel’s possible candidates for marriage.” he nodded.
So she’s taken already? Too bad… Alutras thought, but he was aware of the fact that he was still too young to be thinking about such things.
Besides, he wasn’t planning on hitting on girls when his body was that of a 4 years-old. He planned on doing that when he was 14 or maybe 16, depending on how fun flirting would be for him. Meanwhile, what he was wondering about was the possibility of challenging the girl to a battle.
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